Few events have demonstrated the power of modern media more than those on Tuesday. We’re used to receiving entertainment, sport and even news events from the far side of the world, but on Tuesday a tidal wave of shock and grief was transmitted around the globe. In the past, one would read about such events in the newspapers, several days after they happened, possibly accompanied by a black and white photograph or two. Now, we sit mesmerised by multiple repetitions of high-quality colour footage from all angles only minutes after the tragedy. We’ve even actually heard people’s final phone calls. Many of us walked around in an unbelieving half-dazed state for several days.
Is the world better as a result of this huge multiplication of grief? Of course, it also generates a huge multiplication of sympathy and support – I’m very proud of the way my country and others have stood side by side with America in so many symbolic ways – but since there’s very little practical action that even people right on the doorstep in NY can take, there’s nothing but a multiplication of frustration for the rest of us. Yes, we can donate money, but, frankly, that’s not what they need.
Perhaps the greatest good that can come from the media coverage is this: What was probably intended as an attack on America is being interpreted as an attack on the whole civilised world. That might just be more than the perpetrators, and others of their kind, had bargained for.